The Architect Charles Bulfinch

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The lines of the white convertible, rising, converging. The red leather seats. The smell of coconut sun tan lotion, now a part of the seats, a faint smell of sweat, the taste of rum as they kiss a casual goodbye.

She goes to work where everyone gets their ice cream and the motor turns. These are the days of sun and slow pursuits, the weight of all other things left in Maine. This is Havana, and the time is somewhere between feeling young and fearing old, the closing thoughts of each day distasteful and ignored, warnings of the last of the borrowed time. The contract ending in less than a week, the flight home, the far from casual goodbye to come.

Will a moment ever be happier than the one of today? The 7pm sun illuminating a copy of ‘Invisible Cities’, silent streets of Sunday and the hum of a warm evening, waiting for her to finish work? No, but that is not the point, he thinks. For today to have anchor, it must be remembered, and for it be remembered, it must cease. On this acceptance, he made sure to note every detail; the page he was on (page 41, a description of a city called Hypatia), the angle of the sun, the way the brightness broke hazily and lucid around the dome of El Capitolio. It reminded him of home, specifically the State House in Augusta, but reminded him more that he was not home. He noted the lizard he saw on the concrete near his feet. He wrote these notes on page 41, and she arrived moments later. He glanced back at the bench he would never see again, and they went to the Riviera to watch a movie, and later that night, they danced to Harry Belafonte in her kitchen and kissed and made love.

And years later, as slowness moved in, back in Augusta, in the rain and the struggle home from work, his walk took him past the Maine State House. The architect Charles Bulfinch, he thought, and thought twice of the dome in Havana. He almost tasted rum. On arriving home, he dug out the Calvino paperback and re-read his notes on page 41. It read like hollow mathematics, and his heart filled with mercury. As measurements, in ounces and grams, of bone, blood, feather and feet are the same, but distinct, to a morning gull, the components were accurate but the composition lost.

And years after that, five or six long years of information and new things, of space and shifts, a copy of Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ showed up in a used book store in Boston, and, in good condition, despite some scribbles, it fetched a fair price with a good person. And on reading about the city Hypatia, on page 41, the owner, Betty, saw a disparate list of things and items and measurements about benches and the sun, and under it, in clearly a different ink and pen to the other notes, written more recently and lazily, it said ‘1988, Riviera picturehouse. Harry Belafonte, Unchained Melody’.

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